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Review and Score

Discussion in 'Pillars of Eternity' started by Keneth, Apr 29, 2015.

  1. Keneth Gems: 29/31
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    Now that I've experienced more or less everything in the game (let's call it 95% since I haven't attempted the triple crown solo challenge yet), I feel as though I should put my thoughts on it into writing and see how it measures up to the games of old. I'll split it into sections and rate each aspect individually based on my experience with it so that it's clear how the overall score was achieved as well as give you some insight into the quality of specific parts of the game. I'll try to keep spoilers to a minimum, but I won't bother concealing them.

    (Scroll to the bottom of the post for the tl;dr and score.)

    Story

    Since this is a story-driven RPG, this particular part of the game is the most important for me. That said, it is rated equally with all the other parts.

    Main Plot Hook

    The main plot hook is arguably the most vital part of the story design when making a video game. If the hook is done poorly, a lot of players will have a hard time getting pulled into the overarching storyline. Personally, I wasn't overly impressed with the main plot hook. Some children are being born with a defect and I'm hearing voices? So, basically it's a day of the week that ends with a "y"? I didn't really feel like I should care. Even with a not-so-imminent threat of insanity looming over you, I felt like the "gift" that you were given far outweighs the drawbacks. There also doesn't really seem to be any urgency to it, unlike in MotB for example, where the spirit meter is an ever present reminder of your impending demise. Not that that was a good mechanic, it just got the message across better.

    Score: 6/10

    Complexity and Freedom

    There's nothing wrong with a simple story, but I think most of us are looking for depth in a game like this and Pillars of Eternity certainly does not disappoint when it comes to intricacies, twists, and background information. The world they've created is built on pretty solid foundations and the story winds its way through it quite delicately, slowly but surely unraveling the mysteries of the unfamiliar world and its peoples. There are also a great many interesting side quests to complement the main storyline and give the game some real meaty breadth. The amount of choices in conversations and quests allow the player to role play a wide variety of different and reasonably organic personalities which define your character throughout their journey. It's not perfect, there were times when I wished I could have a few more choices that reflected my character more accurately, but expecting a perfect array of choices in a computer game is simply asking for too much.

    Score: 9/10

    Ending

    The ending is a source of some controversy and disappointment in the community. Some feel that much of the last act was pretty anticlimactic, others are let down by the lack of everything falling neatly into place, and some are just disappointed that the game ends with a standard slideshow epilogue. I've never really been a fan of slideshow endings and I feel that the game overreached slightly in the descriptions of events that follow, in some cases telling the story for decades to come or completely ignoring your influence on the region and your companions. That said, I can appreciate the fact that it doesn't end all neat and tidy. Like the rest of the game, the questions asked don't really have a "right" answer and much like in real life, everything doesn't just cleanly resolve itself at the end like it does in fairy tales. It's not the best ending I've seen in a game, but it's certainly not a bad one.

    Score: 7/10

    Companions

    Companions are what brings the journey to life. You know an NPC is good when there's a healthy amount of people who love it and a healthy amount of people who hate it. Sadly, Pillars of Eternity doesn't quite achieve that. Many of the available companions are rather bland and forgettable. Even so, they're not quite as tedious and unimaginative as the ones in NwN2 OC for example, and you don't have to drag any of them around if you don't want to (in fact, you have the option to recruit custom built characters at any inn). There is a decent amount of banter between the companions, a lot of it quite interesting and amusing, and they do regularly speak their thoughts on various matters, although their presence almost never affects the outcome or even elicits a response to their comments from the NPCs. The score below reflects the average score of all 8 companions combined, but that is not to say that some of them aren't interesting or memorable.

    Score: 6/10

    Story Score: 7/10

    Mechanics

    Character Options and Classes

    Character generation and advancement in Pillars of Eternity is fairly complex. You can choose your own race, class, class options, background, appearance, and behavior (which is defined by an array of personality traits rather than an arbitrary alignment on some cosmic morality scale, as well as by the reputations with various factions in the game). Class mechanics are pretty well designed and balanced, although some classes can still feel somewhat lackluster and lacking in combat actions (which is remedied by consumable and reusable items to a degree). I also appreciate the fact that stat investment and class choices aren't crippling when done "wrong" (unless you decide to go for the triple crown). There is certainly room for improvement and there are still quite a few bugs and problems which only really become evident once you start delving into the mechanics of each individual detail.

    Score: 8/10 (bugs not accounted for in the score)

    Combat and Encounter Design

    Combat in the game ranges from charge in and forget about it to enjoyably tactical and challenging. It's worth mentioning that the AI is pretty atrocious and, in the vast majority of fights, enemies can simply be funneled into a choke point where you can eliminate them one by one while a tanky character holds them off, without fear of being overwhelmed. The overall encounter design combined with the poor AI can make for a somewhat bleak if not tedious experience as you position yourself in the door frame for the umpteenth time. Soloing can make for a more varied and tactical experience but that's not really the approach most players will take, at least not on their first playthrough.

    It's also worth noting that many of the combat encounters can be skipped by sneaking and interacting with the environment or by talking your way out of them. You miss out on some loot, but luckily there is hardly any experience involved with killing enemies, so it doesn't slow your advancement.

    Score: 7/10

    Interaction

    The world in the game can be interacted with in many ways. There are a fair number of places where you can put your characters' skills to good use, initiating story sequences reminiscent of the golden era games and textual adventures, finding secret switches which open up new paths, locating and disarming traps which are placed into your inventory for personal use, etc. Many of the locations also feature interactable scenery that gives you a more detailed description of what you're looking at (but can't necessarily see on the screen). Then, of course, there's the conversation system which is almost at its apex (there could still be a few minor improvements), allowing for massive dialogue trees as well as giving your character the chance to make use of their skills, personality traits, allegiances, backgrounds, and raw attributes.

    Score: 9/10

    Stronghold

    Your character's stronghold initially shows a lot of promise, but unfortunately the mechanics aren't quite on the level and it feels rather lifeless.

    You have a dungeon where you can hold prisoners, but the prisoners are not stripped of their belongings and until you reach a security score of 50 (which is likely near the end of the game), they always seem to have a chance to escape without the possibility of recapture. Regrettably, there is never any chance of rehabilitation, but you can occasionally sell the prisoners to slavers, mad scientists, or their crooked families.

    As you slowly rebuild various parts of your keep, the free resting allows you to gain a bonus related to the restored section of the keep. Unfortunately, the resting bonuses are limited to only one per rest, which makes it better to rest in any given inn rather than your own prestigious estate which you've paid thousands of pands for. The vendors inside the restored buildings are pretty useless as well. The only real gain is the free monster and plant parts gained from the curio shop and botanical gardens respectively and the inherent prestige/security bonus of each building.

    While your security score is low (and while you haven't yet completed the massive dungeon below), you occasionally get attacked by groups of monsters or brigands. You have the option of resolving the fight automatically, which results in casualties and loss of buildings and funds, or returning to the stronghold and taking care of it personally, where it invariably occurs inside the keep's main hall with you in the center. How the monsters managed to get past every defense right into your main hall is anyone's guess. You should be able to deter armies, not having to worry about a handful of beasts banging against the walls.

    You can also hire a selection of mercenaries to guard your keep. These individuals provide you with a security and/or prestige bonus, but are otherwise completely useless in a fight. They usually all die if you choose to handle an invasion encounter in person or worse yet, they turn hostile and attack you on sight thereafter.

    Building a warden's lodge will give you access to a number of bounty tasks. Most of these make for a good fight, but are otherwise pretty flavorless.

    The majority of useful events in the keep are regulated by turns. Turns are tied to quest updates: Every time you successfully complete part of a quest, a new turn occurs at the keep and you potentially get new adventures (to level inactive companions and get some loot), free creature and plant parts, collect taxes, etc. Some are also tied to game world time, but you are probably better off getting your keep in order as soon as possible if you want to make the most of it, which means a lot of pointless traveling between locations or resting since upgrades get constructed over time.

    There's a lot of wasted potential there and hopefully we'll eventually see an update, perhaps in one of the expansions, or a mod to improve the current state of this feature.

    Score: 4/10

    Difficulty Options

    The difficulty options in the game are pretty excellent. Changing the difficulty from easy to hard will alter the composition of the combat encounters, but not the enemies' statistics. There is also Path of the Damned which includes all enemies from all three difficulty settings as well as a boost to their stats to make things even harder. If it wasn't for the pathetic AI, it would be HoF mode on steroids.

    Score: 9/10

    Mechanics Score: 7.4/10

    Art

    There is, without a doubt, a lot of artistic value in Pillars of Eternity. From the hand-painted backgrounds to the wonderful musical scores and skillful storytelling. Although art is highly subjective, it's still pretty hard to find any reasonable fault in this particular aspect of the game.

    Art Score: 9/10

    Conclusion

    As a true spiritual sequel to Baldur's Gate, Pillars of Eternity should satisfy even the biggest grognards. Crowdfunding certainly did more good for Obsidian in this venture than any publisher ever could (or would anyway), and they have delivered an enjoyable product which will hopefully be the first of many of its kind. It's not without its flaws, but if we take off the nostalgia goggles and think back, neither was Baldur's Gate 1. If the folks at Obsidian have learned anything from this experience, I'm sure the expansions and any potential sequels will only improve upon the original design, much like Baldur's Gate 2 did on its predecessor.

    tl;dr: Great game, potentially the vanguard of many great things to come.

    Total Score: 7.8/10

    (Perhaps as a reference point, I gave BG1 a score of 8/10, so PoE comes pretty close.)
     
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2015
    Marceror, Shardnax, crucis and 3 others like this.
  2. Death Rabbit

    Death Rabbit Straight, no chaser Adored Veteran Torment: Tides of Numenera SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!)

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    Reviews with scores are such a useless metric...

    Or so I've been told.
     
  3. Keneth Gems: 29/31
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    They are because a) the numbers are almost always arbitrary or at best merely a reflection of popular opinion and b) the numbers are influenced by a variety of factors, including money. I wasn't really planning on giving the review a score to go along, but I wanted to see for myself how I would rate the game so as to give me a more objective feel for how much I liked it. But a single number doesn't really say much, you can't truly rate something as a sum of its parts without considering each one on its own, which is why I decided to give each individual section a score and calculated an average.

    It's still an arbitrary number calculated with an arbitrary formula and a useless metric altogether, but it should reflect my personal enjoyment if nothing else.
     
  4. Taluntain

    Taluntain Resident Alpha and Omega Staff Member ★ SPS Account Holder Resourceful Adored Veteran Pillars of Eternity SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!) New Server Contributor [2012] (for helping Sorcerer's Place lease a new, more powerful server!) Torment: Tides of Numenera SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!) BoM XenForo Migration Contributor [2015] (for helping support the migration to new forum software!)

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    7.8 doesn't quite say "great game" to me... good game at best, though closer to decent or average so I don't think the conclusion matches the score, to be honest. I also don't get the two instances of "Overall Score" below the "Score"?
     
  5. Blackthorne TA

    Blackthorne TA Master in his Own Mind Staff Member ★ SPS Account Holder Adored Veteran Pillars of Eternity SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!) New Server Contributor [2012] (for helping Sorcerer's Place lease a new, more powerful server!) Torment: Tides of Numenera SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!)

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    He has an overall score for the major headings that have sub-scores: Story and Mechanics. I presume this is some kind of average of the sub-scores, but I didn't look close enough to be sure.
     
  6. Keneth Gems: 29/31
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    That's probably because you're used to seeing scores in the 5-10 range instead of the 1-10 range. How often do you actually see a game with a score between 1 and 5 on a 10 point scale?

    For me, an average game is simply a 5 and PoE is almost 3 points higher than that. A 10 is non-existent, there's no such thing as a perfect game when you consider all of its aspects. Even Ps:T which is my favorite RPG hands down and a true story-driven masterpiece doesn't quite reach the 9.0 mark in my book.

    I always rate games on three of their most important parts: story, mechanics, and art. I further divided Story and Mechanics into smaller subsections which contribute to the overall score of that aspect of the game (the overall score in each part is just an average of all the scores in its subsections). Art is the only one that doesn't have an overall score because I felt it wasn't necessary to deconstruct each type of art, although it is technically an overall score for that aspect of the game.

    The formatting might be a bit awkward, but BB code is pretty limited, so...
     
  7. Taluntain

    Taluntain Resident Alpha and Omega Staff Member ★ SPS Account Holder Resourceful Adored Veteran Pillars of Eternity SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!) New Server Contributor [2012] (for helping Sorcerer's Place lease a new, more powerful server!) Torment: Tides of Numenera SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!) BoM XenForo Migration Contributor [2015] (for helping support the migration to new forum software!)

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    Well, I'm used to looking at reviews mostly in the 7-10 range, since anything below 7 is effectively a bad score. That's how Joker (Slovenian games magazine) rates games, for instance. With so many games out there, there aren't really many people who would bother with a game rated less than 7/10, for instance.

    Ah, I see it now, I missed the size difference in headings. It would help if the subheadings were a different colour to differentiate from the main ones. Also, your second overall is not in the /10 format, which further threw me off.
     
  8. henkie

    henkie Hammertime Resourceful Adored Veteran New Server Contributor [2012] (for helping Sorcerer's Place lease a new, more powerful server!)

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    If I'd had a 7.8 for an exam, it would be pretty good, but not great. It seems a bit optimistic based on the overall tone in the review, though, as does the conclusion. But then again, I'd rate BG2 as pretty good - not great - even if I do like and play it a lot.

    Aside from that, a pretty good review, though I wonder about such things as controls and camera control, which I don't see mentioned at all in the review. It might be my personal pet peeves, but bad controls can ruin the experience just as easily as bad game mechanics can. And camera controls in games have a tendency to assume I always want to be with my face right in the action and would never want to have an overview, which is especially bothersome in party-based games.
     
  9. Ineth

    Ineth Instigator Pillars of Eternity SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!)

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    Agreed. Besides combat mechanics issues, the lack of a well-explained and believable motivation for the protagonist is IMO the biggest problem of the game.

    I guess it's a good thing some of the companion quests required me to go to the same places the main plot would have led me to, so I had at least some reason for going there.
     
  10. Keneth Gems: 29/31
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    Joker's ratings are pretty much as arbitrary as it gets, they literally have no methodology when it comes to rating games, which makes the 1-100 scale all the more ridiculous.

    Here's Febo's quote:
    So basically he thought it was almost as great as BG, but he decided to rate it lower pretty much on account of it being more of the same (which is exactly what we asked for).

    Not that there's anything wrong with rating by comparison, but you do need to have some fixed point of reference and the other ratings are likewise pulled out of their arse.

    I'll change the color of the main headings and their scores.

    There were a few things I'd decided to skip in the review, including interface design, controls, and modding capabilities.

    Interface is pretty good and there's a mod that allows you to customize it more or less in any way you want (because we all have different likes and dislikes when it comes to the GUI). You can also change the font size in your settings, enable color blind mode for more visual ques, and fiddle around with a bunch of other helper functions.

    Controls are pretty much the same as in IE games. Camera can't be rotated since the game is fixed to isometric view, but it can be zoomed and panned normally via hotkeys (arrows) or with the mouse at the edge of the window. Almost all controls are also re-bindable.

    Modding is currently still going slow. We're hoping OE will further open the game formats for easier access, otherwise we'll have to wait for some community made tools (it's unlikely OE will release theirs).
     
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2015
  11. Shardnax Gems: 6/31
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    It's nice to see I'm not alone in regards to the plot and story. I was more interested in Od Nua and side quests than the main game to the point that I neglected the main game until I had to progress it. As fun as the scripted events were, I was worried they were going to be a dialogue box and nothing else before release, it would've been cool to have at least a few more scenes like the one in the final dungeon where everything lights up.
     
  12. Keneth Gems: 29/31
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    I agree, a few more visual sequences would have been nice, but animation is costly. I didn't really mind the text-based events with sketches and sounds effects as an alternative.
     
  13. Blades of Vanatar

    Blades of Vanatar Vanatar will rise again Adored Veteran Pillars of Eternity SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!)

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    Agree with a lot of the comments, some of the scores. Companions are definitely lacking. I prefer creating my own adventurers. Storyline is good IMO. After getting used to the mechanics, I have come to like them. Graphics are not necessary for me. I prefer the fireworks in critical plot scenes only.

    Overall I would rate it an 8.5.
     
  14. Nakia

    Nakia The night is mine Distinguished Member ★ SPS Account Holder Adored Veteran Pillars of Eternity SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!) Torment: Tides of Numenera SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!) BoM XenForo Migration Contributor [2015] (for helping support the migration to new forum software!)

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    My opinion of the game differs from the OP's but that is normal as we each have our own play style, likes and dislikes.
    I would give the overall game a 9 out of 10 score.

    I found the story to have a lot of depth. It asked age old questions. I liked that the player character was not a super hero but a simple adventurer caught into something he or she did not understand. Side quests were important at least some of them. This reminded me of the game Arcanum and the PC's personal search reminded me of Planescape/Torment. The companions with their own personal problems also added depth to the story.

    I had no problems with the mechanics of the game and found no major bugs. I did play on normal with Expert mode. It seems that those who went for hard have more problems and complaints.

    I did feel that OE over extended itself with the limited budget and time they had. Dyrwood felt empty to me. Two villages and one city do not make a country in my opinion.

    Since there will be an expansion I wonder if the ending was left a bit loose on purpose. The choices you have made during the game do make a difference.

    Edit: I have read that if you want to play on hard you should create your own party members. It has also been reported that with patch 1.05 you will be able to drop the companions to level 1 and redo them.
     
  15. Keneth Gems: 29/31
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    I wish it had reminded me of Ps:T, but the "personal" search felt pretty impersonal to me, at least until the very end where you really see and feel your past choices.

    There's a lot more to Dyrwood than we see in the game, we just haven't had the chance to explore it yet. There's only a small chunk of shoreline and Dyrwood forest in the actual game at this point. Also, I think technically Eír Glanfath is part of Dyrwood, they just have their own region and law (kind of like Native Americans). Not entirely sure though.

    Now if we compare that to Baldur's Gate 2, how much of Amn do we see in SoA? Well, one big city (Athkatla), one small town (Trademeet), and a lonely elven city which we don't get to explore much (Suldanessellar). The rest are just a few scattered keeps, ruins, and wilderness maps. Did it feel like more of a nation? I suppose BG2 wasn't quite as politically oriented though.

    According to several interviews, the expansion(s) will expand the original game and occur prior to the ending (like TotSC). There are no real plans for a sequel yet, afaik.

    Completely unnecessary, even on PotD, but yeah, you can respec the official companions in 1.05, which was a much needed feature.

    I played on hard as my first go, not understanding the system in the least, using broken traits and bugged abilities and I had no problems at all. Didn't even need to use consumables.
     
  16. crucis

    crucis Fighting the undead in Selune's name Veteran

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    You won't be able to change a Companion's class or attributes. What you'll be able to do is re-select the class abilities and talents they pick, starting fresh at level 1. This apparently has to be done as soon as you add them to your party.

    Also, how this is done is a little tricky. There's an option within the game's options that you have to select so that when you add a companion to your party, they begin as a starting character, ready to be leveled to whatever level is appropriate for that point in the game.

    So, for example, if you're going to add Kana to your party, and you're at level 5, and he'll probably end up at level 5 as well, you'd better think about what talents and abilities you'd like a level 5 Kana to have.
     
    Last edited: May 7, 2015
    Paracelsi and Nakia like this.
  17. Nakia

    Nakia The night is mine Distinguished Member ★ SPS Account Holder Adored Veteran Pillars of Eternity SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!) Torment: Tides of Numenera SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!) BoM XenForo Migration Contributor [2015] (for helping support the migration to new forum software!)

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    Thank you, crucis, I figured we wouldn't be able to change the class or attributes. Good to know you need to set the option.
     
  18. Keneth Gems: 29/31
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    That's correct. Although if you really wanna change their class, you can do that too through the console with IE mod installed.
     
  19. Nakia

    Nakia The night is mine Distinguished Member ★ SPS Account Holder Adored Veteran Pillars of Eternity SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!) Torment: Tides of Numenera SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!) BoM XenForo Migration Contributor [2015] (for helping support the migration to new forum software!)

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    I really like the game the way OE made it. I haven't no desire to install the IE mod. My fear is that OE will pay to much attention to the negative posters and change too many things.

    Sure there can be improvements but there will be an expansion and possibly a sequal. Just as there were with the BG games.
     
  20. Keneth Gems: 29/31
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    You can pick and choose which parts of IE mod you want to use. Some are more extreme than others. I'm pretty satisfied with the way things work in vanilla, but I do feel that many of the mod's features are a must have, like being able to autosave only after a certain interval to reduce loading times, and autosaving prior to transitions instead of after. I also can't function without fast scouting mode. The game pretty much requires that you scout all the damn time if you wanna find everything, at least until you know where the secret stashes/doors/traps are, and it's too damn slow even with double speed on the whole time. Its UI features and extra console commands (none of which disable achievements) are also very nice.

    Seeing as you can ignore all the feature that change game mechanics, I can't not recommend the mod. It's just one of those mods that everyone should get at some point if not on the first playthrough.
     
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